immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and
the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the
powers of the heavens will be shaken." - Matthew 24:29
One of the
original questions that the disciples ask Jesus at the beginning of this
discourse was " what will be the sign of your coming?" He has been answering the question since verse 23. Having spoken of His coming in verse
27, Jesus now builds upon His previous point that He will not arrive
clandestinely, but His return will be a clear, public event that will take
place suddenly. Just such a
glorious appearing is exactly what is described in verses 29 and 30.
The Sun, Moon, and
Matthew 24:29 is
not a new revelation by our Lord.
Old Testament passages like Isaiah 13:9- 10 and Joel 2:31; 3:15 also
reference this " black out" and light show that will occur " immediately after
the tribulation," in preparation for Christ' s second coming as noted in Matthew
24:30. These Old Testament
passages refer to the same future events that Christ describes in verse
29. In conjunction with the return
of Jesus, Israel will be rescued from her tribulation by the Lord Himself
(verse 31). We see the theme of
rescue associated with the Lord' s return reinforced from the contexts of these
Old Testament passages, especially Joel 2 and 3, especially 2:31 and 3:1- 2.
It is clear that
our Lord has quoted part of His declaration about the sun and moon in Matthew
24:29, " But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not
give its light, . . ." from Joel 2:31. Both are speaking of the same time and events- the time
immediately following the tribulation and in conjunction with Christ' s
return. Thus, it is interesting to
take note of Joel 3:1- 2, which provides a " time text" saying that the " black
out" (Joel 2:31) will occur " in those day and at that time" (Joel 3:1). In conjunction with this is described a
time when the Lord will " restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem" (Joel
3:1). Not judgment, but
deliverance, as in Matthew 24.
This event is said to be a time when the Lord " will gather all the
nations" (Joel 3:1) in the valley of Jehoshaphat just north of Jerusalem. Further, it will be a time in which
Israel will have been regathered from among the nations (Joel 3:2). This will be the time in which the sun
and moon will be darkened.
preterists believe that these events are connected to the first century. " Here we encounter remarkable cosmic
disturbances that seem too catastrophic for applying to a.d. 70," says Gentry.
He believes that " this portrays historical divine judgment under the
dramatic imagery of a universal catastrophe."  How does he arrive at such a
conclusion? " To understand it
properly we must interpret it covenantally, which is to say biblically, rather
than according to a presupposed simple literalism."  It goes without saying that any passage
in the Bible must be interpreted biblically. So, why does Gentry feel compelled to make such a
statement? He does this because he
is getting ready to put forth an un-biblical interpretation. He already admitted that it does not
seem that these events happened in the first century. Since he apparently cannot provide a textual interpretation,
he has to bring in his preconceive theology as the real basis for his
understanding of the text. He is
not interpreting the passage biblically, but theologically. Dr. Gentry uses his preconceived
preterist notion as the true basis for his " interpretation" at this point. This is obvious to any attempting to
handle the text from the proper perspective of the literal, grammatical, and
contextual approach. Only those who
are already committed to preterism, no matter what the text says, will fall for
Gentry' s equation of covenantal
interpretation with a proper biblical approach.
believes that verse 29 " draws upon the imagery from Old Testament judgment
passages that sound as if they are world-ending events."  I have already noted such a
relationship. This point is not a
matter for debate, however, Gentry is typical of how preterists mishandle the
recognized Old Testament relationship.
Gentry admits that this passage sounds like it did not occur in the first
century. This is why, by his own
admission, he must introduce his theology (if covenant were a true synonym for biblical, why must he tell us?) as a factor for
interpreting this text. While
those following the normal canons of sound hermeneutics- the historical, grammatical, contextual
approach- cannot find Dr. Gentry' s view taught from the passage. Dr. Gentry must employ a historical,
grammatical, and theological hermeneutic to (mis)explain the passage. Since the preterist erroneous believes
that these events had to occur in the first century they are forced to views
that are not supported by the words, phrases, and context of the passage. If anyone is allowed to subjectively
introduce their theology as part of the hermeneutical process, then it should
not be surprising to find that the text supposedly teaches what is
presupposed. But that is not true
exegesis, but it is a widely practiced form of eisegesis. Dr. Robert Thomas' recent comment about
Dr. Gentry' s interpretative approach is on the mark when he says, " Gentry' s use
of symbolism is inconsistent and self-contradictory. A factoring of preunderstanding into the interpretive
process inevitably leads to unimaginable extremes in hermeneutical abuse."  The same could be said for all
preterist approaches to Matthew 24 and much of Scripture.
Handling Figures of Speech
When I study the
Old Testament figures that preterist say speak of the passing of a great
political power, I wonder how they know what the original figures mean? I do not see a textual basis for their
understanding either in the Old Testament or in Matthew 24. There are no biblical passages that
establish the preterist use of these figures. In 1857 Rev. D. D. Buck made the following hermeneutical
points about interpreting Matthew 24:29, which are still valid in our own day:
(1.) The use of metaphoric language implies a
knowledge or idea of what would be understood if such language were applied
literally. No one ever uses figures
without having in view the literal things from which the figures are derived. .
. . If we say Christianity is the sun of the world, it implies that we have a
previous understanding of the nature and fact of the sun.
(2.) Now, whence did this ancient figurative
use of the darkening of the luminaries arise? How did it happen that it was so common for the prophets to
speak of ordinary, limited judgments, in language which all admit would, if
used literally, apply to the general judgment? How became it so common to speak metaphorically of the
darkening of the sun, moon, and stars, and the passing away of the
heavens? Figures are the shadow of
the literal. Where is the
substance that originates the shadow?
Metaphors are borrowed from literal speech. Where is the literal speech, and the revelation of the
literal idea, of the blotting out of the bright heavens, and the downfall of
(3.) This question is to be settled by
those who seize upon every reference to these great events, and pronounce them
figurative. Will they please to
tell us where there is a spot in all the Bible where the literalist may plant
his feet, and stand up in defense of orthodoxy, and give a philosophical
explanation of the commonness of such language as appears to refer to the day
Comparing Scripture With Scripture
Luke 21:24 says,
" and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all
the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until
the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled."
This text provides an outline of the history of Jerusalem from the time
of the destruction of Jerusalem until Israel' s redemption at the second coming
(Luke 21:25- 29). The time in which
the sun and moon will be darkened will follow the end of " the times of the
Gentiles," according to Luke 21:25.
The fact that the blackout of Matthew 24:29 is to come at the end of the
times of the Gentiles, " immediately after the tribulation of those days," makes
it clear that it could not have happened in the first century since, according
to Luke 21:24, the Roman destruction of the Holy City would commence that time
which has gone on now for almost 2,000 years. This event must be future and in conjunction with a time in
which the Lord will deliver His people, not judge them (as in a.d. 70).
If the preterist
interpretation of this passage is left to stand then it creates tremendous
contradictions between the text and the historical records of the Roman
siege. Rev. Richard Shimeall
explains the preterist problem as follows:
Historically, therefore, the state of
the case amounts to this:
(1.) The high-priest of the Jewish nation and many of his
associates had been murdered, and the whole body of the priesthood overthrown;
and, if there were any religious services, they were conducted by such wretches
as the robbers saw fit to appoint.
(2.) Their temple was changed into a citadel and stronghold of an
army of the vilest and most abominable robbers and murderers that ever
disgraced the human race.
(3.) Their "holy houses" (synagogues) throughout the
land had been pillaged and destroyed by the ruthless and bloody Sicarii.
(4.) Their judiciary and temple officers had either fled for
their lives to the Romans, or had been murdered by the robber-gangs of the
city, while their nobles and men of-wealth perished by myriads. And finally,
(5.) Whether within the capital or throughout the borders of
Judea, east, west, north, and south, the ecclesiastical and civil institutions of the nation were exterminated, and the country
conquered and laid waste by the Romans, or ravaged by organized banditti.
And thus, reader, it continued to the
end. These, we repeat, are the historical
facts of the case. And yet, our commentators have trusted
the interpretation of some of the most important parts of the Bible to the
theory, the principal argument to sustain which lies in the assumption that the
Jewish ecclesiastical and civil governments were destroyed "after"
the destruction of Jerusalem!
What shall the writer say more? He claims to have settled the question
by undeniable historic
facts. If anything, let it be in
the form of the following appeal to logic:
l. If by the heavenly luminaries be meant the ecclesiastical
and civil States and rulers of the Jews, and the darkening of them refers to
their destruction; and if this was effected by the Roman legions, it follows
that it must have occurred either before or during the
tribulation that resulted in their ruin.
2. But, inasmuch as the object of the war was to reduce the nation to obedience,
or to bring it to ruin, it could not have preceded it.
3. It must therefore have occurred during the war.
Recollect we are now speaking of the darkening of the sun, moon, and
stars, as denoting the so-called Jewish tribulation at the hands of the Romans. We repeat, then, it must have occurred
during the war. Now, it is
undeniable, that that war did not cease until its object was effected. It is also undeniable, that the nation
was in ruins before the war
was ended. And it is a fact, also,
that the predicted tribulation continued undiminished, if indeed it did not
increase in severity, to the last.
It is, therefore, we submit,
settled- historically and logically settled- that it was during, and not after, that time of trouble, that the so-called
Jewish luminaries were darkened.
And, what is decisive of this point, are those notable words of Christ, " Immediately
after tribulation of those days,
the sun shall be darkened," etc.; which shows conclusively that our Lord was not
speaking of that event in the
29th verse of this chapter.
Continued . . .)